A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that for a murder mystery that takes place in an assassin training academy, Death Sworn has relatively little violence. Sure, murder and death are major topics, but there's no gore. A climactic confrontation ends with a throat slashing that's bloody and briefly described, and a dead body's described with some blood mentioned but no other gory detail. Sex is confined to a couple of kisses. A heavier make-out session and the possibility of sex are hinted at, but nothing's described or specifically mentioned as having happened. Students of varying ages from pre-teen to young adult at the assassin academy drink wine at celebrations.
What's the story?
A test has proven that one day Ileni, 17, will lose her magical powers, which means she can no longer live with the Renegai, the sorcerer community in which she grew up. As part of a long-standing treaty with the assassins she's sent to their hidden enclave to teach them spells that will help them on their killing missions. The two previous magic teachers have been murdered in the span of a few months, and as Ileni feels her powers waning she knows that she could be murdered at any moment. But she's determined to find out how and why her predecessors died for the sake of helping the Renegai, even though she knows it will be the last thing she does.
Is it any good?
DEATH SWORN is the third novel from Leah Cypess, and she's hit her stride here. She successfully creates a tense, oppressive atmosphere in the assassins' caves; the characters are well developed and believable; the mystery is intriguing and the solution takes almost as many twists and turns as the winding underground fortress itself. The ending is satisfying but leaves the door open for a sequel.
The writing never really soars, but it's solid, and kids who like mystery, intrigue, and magic will enjoy rooting for the heroine Ileni as she tries to solve the case -- and stay alive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why books that combine magic and mystery are so popular. Which element do you like better, the magic, or the mystery? Or do you like both elements?
The boys and young men training to be assassins never seem to question the master's authority or plans. Was there ever a time you wanted to speak out about something but didn't? Why not?
When you read mysteries, are you usually able to tell whodunnit, or are you usually surprised? What about this time? Whom did you suspect the most?
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